The driving frenzy of summer is almost upon us. Here are some tips to help ensure that your next road trip is one you'll always remember, rather than one you'll want to forget.
Is your vehicle fit? Lift the hood. Fluids, filters, belts, hoses, cooling system, brakes and tires should be checked. Be sure all the lights and turn signals work. Windshield wiper blades shouldn't streak or scrape. Make sure that your spare tire is usable and properly inflated. If your car's battery is more than 3 years old, have it checked. Better yet, replace it. Make sure your air-conditioning system is fully charged. If your vehicle has a cabin air filter, have it cleaned.
Speaking of cleaning, because you'll be spending a lot of time in your ride, clean the interior.
Finally, if your car or truck has high mileage, is too small or has been unreliable, consider a rental.
The art of packing: Heaviest items should be placed closest to the center of the car. In SUVs, place the heaviest items on the floor to maintain safe handling. Loose items should be secured. Remove loose items from the rear parcel shelf so they don't hit passengers in a panic stop. As you pack the trunk, remember that you might have to unpack it to access the spare tire. Keep your rear view clear, no matter how large the load.
Make sure the combined weight of passengers and cargo doesn't exceed your vehicle's maximum load capacity. Overloading can overtax vehicle systems and lead to a serious accident. The capacity is listed in your owner's manual and varies by vehicle and are lower than you might expect. A four-cylinder Honda Accord has a maximum load capacity of 850 pounds.
Entertainment: For the kids, bring their favorite toys and books, or consider a portable DVD player, iPad or MP3 player, such as an iPod touch. For yourself, take along your CDs, DVDs, DVD player, iPod, iPad, Nook, Kindle or audio books. Or leave it all at home and use the time for family bonding.
Worst-case scenarios: Give someone a trip itinerary so you be can be located in an emergency. Don't forget your driver's license, vehicle registration and auto and medical insurance cards. Take your doctor's phone number, along with any prescriptions. Have someone carry a spare set of vehicle keys. And, you are taking a mobile phone with car charger, right?
Be prepared: A breakdown, flat tire or other inconvenience can occur at any time. Pre-assembled emergency and first aid kits are available at auto parts stores, but you might want to augment them.
First aid kit: Consider having adhesive tape, gauze bandage, gauze pads, plastic bandage strips, disinfectant salve, small scissors, pain relievers, tweezers and hand sanitizer.
Emergency kit: Phillips and flat-head screwdrivers, pliers, socket wrenches, duct tape, electrical wire tape, electrical wire spray, WD-40, flashlight with extra batteries, coolant hose repair kit, small fire extinguisher, jumper cables, tire gauge, road flares, spare fuses, foam tire sealant or a portable air compressor, jumper cables, rain gear, work gloves, roadside assistance phone number, a disposable camera (to record accident damage), spare fluids and nonperishable food.